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Assigned: Rudyard Kipling. From War Stories and Poems: "The Drums of the Fore and Aft" (7-38), "The Mutiny of the Mavericks" (70-88), "A Sahib's War" (163-80), "The Comprehension of Private Copper" (183-93).
The Drums of the Fore and Aft" (7-38)
A very informative website on the Anglo-Afghan Wars (in which the British tried to counter Russian influence in the region and install amenable rulers) may be viewed at Afghan Wars. On the Gurkha (Nepalese) troops who served alongside the British, see Brigade of Gurkhas.
1. From 7-10, how does the narrator establish his authority and prepare readers to interpret the tale he is soon to tell about a regiment that breaks and then returns to the fight? (If you are presenting on this question, you might want to draw upon additional parts of the text to develop your response, or even incorporate question 6 regarding the text's overall attitude towards the Afghan campaign and its participants.)
2. From 10-21, the narrator spends part of his time developing the story of Jakin and Lew. What do we learn about them -- their backgrounds, their expectations on the eve of an engagement with the enemy in Afghanistan, and the way the adult military men look upon them?
3. From 21-29, how does the narrator characterize the Afghan fighters who oppose the British Imperial troops and the Gurkhas? What is related about their qualities and their methods of fighting? To what extent does the text rank them above or below the British and their allies?
4. From 29-38, why and in what manner does the "Fore and Fit" Regiment at first fail in its duty, and what are the consequences? What brings them around to the point where they acquit themselves well, and what exactly do they do to redeem themselves? What role, if any, might Jakin and Lew be said to play in this turnabout?
5. At various points in the story, we hear about the Gurkhas or Nepalese troops who fight alongside the British and against the Afghans. What qualities are ascribed to them as men and as warriors, and how do the British soldiers relate to these foreign but allied troops?
6. General question: taking into account the narrator's characterization of the troops, the officers, the enemy, and the situation as a whole, what view of the imperial campaign in Afghanistan does the text present: positive, negative, or neutral and descriptive?
"The Mutiny of the Mavericks" (70-88)
7. From 70-74, what kind of organization is the IAA and what is said about certain of its members? What strategic objective do they apparently hope to achieve by means of inciting an Irish regiment in the Punjab to engage in a mutiny against the British? What sort of man is Mulcahy, whom they decide to send as the primary agent of their mission, and how does he set about to accomplish his designs?
8. From 74-80, how does the regiment respond to Mulcahy's overtures and schemes? Why don't they just turn him in -- what's in it for them to play along with his conspiratorial scheme, and how do they convince him that they are willing to revolt? What new event begins the process of Mulcahy's downfall: what doesn't he understand about these men, according to the narrator?
9. From 81-87, how do Horse Egan and Dan Grady decide to deal with the traitor in their midst? How does Mulcahy face his predicament, and what advantage do Grady and his comrades try to derive from the death of Mulcahy? What does the final section of the story suggest about the way the members of the Irish regiment regard their experience as soldiers in a difficult, hostile land? What's the point of it all for them?
"A Sahib's War" (163-80)
10. From 163-68, Umr Singh (a native of the Punjab in India) begins recounting to a fellow traveler an episode he has lived through during the Boer War in South Africa (1899-1902). Who was "Kurban Sahib," and what relationship did Umr have with him? (Hint: see the inscription at the story's end.) How does Kurban Sahib analyze the cause and progress of the Boer War? Why do they employ a devious method of getting to South Africa where the action is?
11. From 168-75, Umr, Kurban Sahib and a Muslim named Sikandar Khan are sent to the front managing the British army's horses, and end up involved in the fighting. In this narrative, much is said about racial and cultural differences. How does Umr regard the Africans he supervises, what relations subsist between the two men and the Muslim Sikandar, and how does Umr assess the "Ustrelyas" (Australians or New Zealanders) fighting alongside the English? How are the Boer opponents regarded?
12. From 175-80, Umr and Sikandar bury Kurban Sahib and are bent upon taking vengeance against the Boers (descendants of Dutch, German, Belgian and French settlers in South Africa) who killed him. How does this design play out -- why don't they take vengeance? What are Umr's closing thoughts about where he stands now that the man he served is gone? What two "jests" give him pleasure at the story's end, and why?
"The Comprehension of Private Copper" (183-93)
13. From 183-88, Private Alf Copper is taken prisoner by a young Transvaal burgher -- a Boer partisan during the Boer War of 1899-1902. What is the burgher's story -- his family and personal history? And what outlook on the history between the English and the South African Boers does he offer Alf Copper? What does the captor apparently think of the young Englishman he has taken captive, and why?
14. From 188-93, Copper turns the tables on his capturer. What is it about the burgher's attitude and behavior that makes this turnabout possible? Once he is himself a prisoner, how does Copper treat him and parse the way the young man behaved towards him when he had the upper hand? How is Copper different from what the burgher had thought of him?
15. From 188-93, what does the narrative suggest about the British side's understanding and morale with regard to the conflict in which they are engaged? Are they optimistic and perhaps even idealistic about what they are doing, or would some other way of characterizing them be best? Explain.
Edition: Kipling, Rudyard. War Stories and Poems. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999. ISBN-13: 978-0192836861.